Is there tangible value in advertising?

This is possibly one of the most difficult questions to answer and add digital media impressions to the equation - it suddenly makes the elephant in the room a whole lot bigger.
The value of digital advertising is undoubtedly measurable - especially when compared to print media but the intrinsic value of impressions is also being questioned.

Digital media, such as online or mobile adverts in any form, ranging from banner to Google- ads, is measureable and compared to print advertising, some significant comparisons emerge.

When looking at common CPM (cost per impression, the online advert cost per thousand views) metrics versus print advertising, and how to effectively reach consumers, the latter commands on average a much lower CPM and is far less measurable.

For example, a banner ad on MySpace might cost $0.25 to be exposed to 1000 people ($0.25 CPM), versus a magazine print advertisement, which costs $25 for 1000 readers of Time (TWX) magazine ($25 CPM), not even knowing if they have opened the magazine.

So why are digital "impressions" dramatically cheaper?

In an article published on Techcrunch (, the author states:

"Rather, a seismic shift is underway - one that will not only change the nature of advertising, but will also show that the last century of offline advertising witnessed a tremendous amount of money being flushed down the toilet. We are a lot smarter than we were 50 years ago, and those analog dollars really should have been analog pennies all along."

And adverisers are voting with their Dollars. According to the Newspaper Association of America, Interactive Advertising Bureau, newspaper advertising has significantly declined in the period of 2005 - 2008, while online ad revenue has been steadily climbing, abeit slowly.

However, the question is, why should there be such a premium placed on traditional media if you cannot accurately measure the return and engage with customers?

And costs aside, part of the reason that there should be a shift from print to digital is that the online 'impression' reveals a lot about potential customers and their interests. For example, Google's impressions on its search engine, Adwords, shows what happens after the exposure to the advertisement, something traditional media has failed to achieve.

So why spend more on traditional advertising in print media if you are doing a campaign and not really able to measure the results effectively? How can businesses justify the expense? This debate has opened a can of worms amongst traditional and digital publishers.

In essence, impressions are the meat and potatoes of traditional above-the-line media. With interactive media, measuring clicks are an essential metric to gauge the true interest in a commercial proposition.

Notably, with interactive media it is important to look beyond the 'click' to assess how the visitor engages with a Web site. Beyond the click is a wealth of information. Over time, users' attention will shift to engagement and ultimately, conversions.

This is where goals come in. Loosely defined, a goal is a desirable and predetermined outcome that an advertiser would like to see result from a campaign. Common goals include signing up for a community or newsletter, purchasing a product or generating a lead, contacting or enquiring. If campaign objectives extend to conversions , further detail needs to be considered. In fact, it is easy to see how many goals have been achieved as a result of paid "impressions" resulting from the banner campaign.

So why are businesses still so hesitant to spend in online instead of print? It has become simple to calculate the cost of achieving goals, instead of simply calculating the cost of "impressions". By dividing the goal achievement number by the total campaign cost, it will provide the true cost of an impression.

As a result, the value of an impression can now be quantified in terms of the number of goals that are achieved. This is of course not the only measure of success for online campaigns, but has to be considered when purchasing "impressions".

That said, there is no one size fits all. Companies have to really think about the objectives of each campaign they are running and the digital media opportunities that are out there, combining email campaigns, search engine marketing, banner displays and search engine optimisation to gain more traction. While it is still a relatively new phenomenon, organisations should seek to embrace the new medium as a cost-effective, interactive strategy that yields results, and can be justified at boardroom level.
27 Sep 2010 12:23


About the author

Kevin Lourens cares about results and is too embarrassed to take clients' money for stuff that does not work. Kevin is a founder member and CEO of Cambrient, a results focused digital agency.